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December 9, 2009

Baltimore school board approves charter school

Baltimore's school board approved the opening of a new charter school at its meeting last night, despite comments by the public questioning whether there should  be a limit to the number of charters allowed in the city. After last night's approval, the city has 28 charter schools.

The Tunbridge Public Charter school, which is expected to open at 5500 York Road, will eventually have 400 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. The curriculum and school plan will be based on that at the Afya Public Charter Middle School, a successful charter school in Baltimore.

The board also turned down an application for The Early Learning Development Academy, which had not yet secured a location.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 3:03 PM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Baltimore City


Query@Post by Liz Bowie

Answer why do you appear to tip-toe-around finding ways not writing in the official words "Baltimore City Public School?" "Is it just style our are you following a school system edict?"

Isn't the principal at Afya the one who walked out on Waverly mid-year and one of the members of the governing Board an ex-School Board Commissioner? And now they are given a feeder school? Is BCPSS willing or able to say no and bite the hand that feeds them (re: Gates and Able Foundations)

I don't use Baltimore City Public Schools because it is a long title. I am trained to write in the fewest number of words. City schools is shorter.
There's no hidden message or edict.

@OTT -
Way too much inside system politics for me to figure out what you are saying or implying. The principal at Afya (per the school system website - I don't know him & had to look it up) is William McKenna. Are you saying he did something awful? Many charter schools have ex-City School staff. I'm not sure why the school board would object to that. And the fact that a member of their board used to be a school board commissioner (no way I can figure out to check that)...why is that so bad? And I know that Gates and Able have been providing City Schools with money - are you implying there's a connection between this new school and Gates and Able? Are they sponsoring organizations or are you implying that they like charters so the city school board approves every charter request that they get? I know that's not true.

I'm not trying to be dense, but I don't understand what you're trying to say. Maybe if I worked for City Schools I would.

That is interesting! city Schools is the same terminology that Dr. Alonzo wants used. I guess he may have been trained the same way!

The Afya principal is NOT the one that walked out of Waverly mid-year, that was the person who was chosen to replace him when he left. I worked for Will at Waverly and the Afya students are lucky to have him - he continues to be the educational leader that all other principals I work for are measured against.

@AP- When a principal leaves in the middle of the school year and unexpectly, it disrupts the entire school and it is usually out of personal goals with little reguards for the students.

Also since charter schools are "public schools" all of their staff should be BCPSS employees? I don't know either.

The ex-Board member is also a BCPSS employee, a B.Morris move.. maybe?

To answer your questions: teachers and administrators who work at a charter school location are, in fact, employees of the school board. The charter operator, such as Baltimore Curriculum Project, Inc., might hire a few people to do nontraditional things for the school. But the folks who work at the school are school system employees.

Thanks SG2

Over the Top: You are just that!

Lisa and others:

Thanks for setting the record straight on Afya's principal. He is a great school leader and I agree that the kids are lucky to have him. I am not sure why OTT feels the need to speak/write without checking facts but am glad to see that OTT continues to read the responses so that they can see where there were mistakes in their information.

As for the "member of the board" issue, if that member was on the Board for the school and voted on the new school I can see a conflict of interest but I know that this has not happened, a fact that could be easily checked. As for former City School Board members serving as advisory board members to individual schools this actually makes sense to me given the experience they have and connections they bring.

In general I am not sure where all the push back comes from in terms of creating high performing schools in a city that needs them. As has been stated, these are public schools, part of BCPSS, taking city kids. They hire city teachers and para's and get city dollars. What they, and the transformation schools and the New Schools before them have is a contract that requires success and has the board and public taking regular reviews of a wide range of data including test scores and discipline data. If schools are not making progress they can be closed. This is NOT true for the traditional schools where only rarely are they closed when underperforming. I think that having a contract with all schools might actually be a better way to go - perform of go out of business.

@IP - I will concede the first point, I was incorrect but I also was asking a question.

#2 - That is how I felt about the B.Morris move until the bottom fell out.

#3 - "creating high performing schools" - I don't think we are at the point of declaring it a success.

There was an article a while back about the candidates for the vacant Board seat. What is going on with that process? Has the mayor's troubles stopped the nomination?

Hey Over The Top:

Why don't you take the time to look at an individual school's performance, instead of all charters.

You're lumping all the charters in together, when only one was approved, and others were rejected.

Look at Afya's test scores last year. Look at how many of those kids come from disadvantaged families.

They were one of the highest-performing middle schools in the city, maybe #1. And I think they topped most schools in the state.

You're lucky to live in a city where a successful school wants to try to open another one. Especially because every single one of the traditional non-charter middle schools are complete and total failures.

Throwing blind allegations, even on a message board, is just plain irresponsible.

@Hamilton Parent -
Your points are well made - there's a continual attempt to mash all charters together, both in comments on this blog and in the report that OverTheTop linked to above. That's a mistake since charters independent with unique charters (i.e. visions and plans). We should expect there to be successes and failures and some sort of "survival of the fittest" both for charters and non-charters.

That being said, I take issue with your rather ironic generalization that "every single one of the traditional non-charter middle schools are complete and total failures". Are you including K-8 schools and 6-12 schools in that blanket statement (or are they non-traditional)? Do you have personal experience with every middle school in Baltimore city? Middle schools are problematic, but a "complete and total failure"? That would imply that every kid in a City School middle school is learning nothing in those three years, and I just don't think that is true.

Some charter school seem have little regard for the Baltimore City Public Schools policies and procedures.. Last March, 2009 there was a charter school that the board threatened to not renew. There were stipulations made regarding changes that needed to be made in order to renew the charter for the 2010-2011 School year. To this day there are paraprofessionals (non-certified) working as teachers, staff working in the school who work for the foundation and not BCPSS, not to mention the "nepotism" continues. In the long run it is the students who suffer. I agree with the Charter School concept because there are some good ones, but they should be monitored more closely

Hey HP,

In a city where an overwhelming percentage of the students attend public schools, charter and non-charter, are from "disadvantaged" (what do you mean by that) families, that argument holds no water. In addition, as AP pointed out you are guilty of the same assumptions of which you accuse me.

So I did look. Afya has only has 6th grade data so that is not much to base a life altering decision on but it is really not that much different than the non-charter Hamiliton Middle. Environment may be a different issue. Afya is not even close to being #1, so are they worthy of being granted another school?

@OTT -
Your comment about looking into the data moved me to do the same thing. Hamilton Middle is a closed school at this point, so I don't really understand how they have data anymore. So rather than look at that school I picked Northeast Middle - it's located within a mile of Afya. By that comparison it is obvious that Afya is doing much better - 82% vs 51% in math prof + adv and 88% vs 61% in reading. But HP's comment of the best middle school in the state is wrong. I selected Roland Park and found that they were marginally better than Afya - 86% for math and 94% for reading. I don't know what the best middle school in the state is and we need to remember that Roland Park is a predominately magnet school at the middle school level.

The strongest point to me is the student demographics. We're always talking Title I on this blog and Title I percentages are 98% for Afya, 95% for Northeast and 4% for Roland Park. So all in all I'd say that Afya (on the basis of a single year) is doing quite well as far as tests go.

@Parent, the data that was shown for Hamilton Middle was based on the test that their students during the '08-'09 school year.

@ lancer -
OK, but then I think OTT's review of the data was wrong. In math Afya is 82% prof + adv while Hamilton MS is 47%, in reading it's Afya at 88% and Hamilton at 60%. It seems weird to me that Hamilton did as well as that (about the same as Northeast) considering it was shut down for being persistantly dangerous. Maybe the school size (only 138 kids - pretty small - was being phased out year by year?) was a factor.

Can you tell I'm an engineer that likes looking a numbers?

Test results are getting compared here as if they are bouquets of flowers. If a school that was shut down for being persistently dangerous got test scores that you find weirdly high, your instinct makes sense but your conclusion--that school size was a factor--does not. The basis of your suspicion cancels the evidence, unless you wish to suggest that students do better under illegal duress than do students who work in comparably quiet and peaceful conditions. Somewhere there must be a very learned dissertation being written about violent disruption enhances one's ability to learn.

@Over The Top - Your review of the data was factually incorrect, as others have shown already. Take the middle schools, or middle/high schools, and Afya is at or near the top. Incidentally, the ONLY schools that have had any success as 6-8 grade models in recent Baltimore history have been charters (Crossroads, KIPP, and now Afya). That being said, there have been some middle school charters that have NOT worked. I would NOT advocate for those schools getting another school.

Also, I did not do the same thing you did. See my explanation to a parent below.

@a parent - In labeling the failures, I was referring to the traditional 6-8 schools only, since Afya is a 6-8 and I was comparing similar schools. Those are middle schoos by definition. K-8s are not "middle schools". But they do have middle grades. The difference is that they have an advantage of getting the kids as kindergartners, and then working with them for seven years before they take the test the Afya kids did last year.

Also, thanks for clearing up the Title I. That's what I meant by "disadvantaged".

I lock in on just advanced because I believe that the bar is too low for profiecent. Also Hamilition imploded because of the changing dempographics of that area. Enrollment is 1/10 of what is was years ago.

So if it took that long to close Hamiltion why would Ayfa be allowed to expand after just one year of semi-positive results?

@ Parent.. HMS was in the process of being phased out, not because of the persistently dangerous status (that is a whole other story) but because of the facility reorganization that shut down many BCPS schools. This was the final cohort to graduate. As a former teacher at HMS, I know the team that worked with the students the last year. The some of the math and language arts teacher had been working with many of the kids since 6th grade and did a wonderful job with them.

@OTT So you completely dismiss the difference between kids who can pass a test and kids who can't? You're only counting the top kids? Kids who can't read and do math are achieving the same as kids who can't?

Ok. Due respect, but I think we're wasting our time discussing anymore. We have completely different perspectives.

Mistyped a sentence above. Should read: "Kids who CAN read and do math are achieving the same as kids who can't?"

@OTT -
OK, if you only look at advanced and only at math I can see where Hamilton MS is performing above Afya (18% vs 14%), BUT I don't think this is a good way to judge a school because:
- if only advanced is acceptable, then I can't find any schools where a decent amount of kids (say 60%) are scoring advanced
- because Hamilton MS has VERY few being proficient in math (30% vs 68% at Afya)
- because when you get into Advanced scoring it seems like you see cohort groups moving through a school (i.e. it's not about how well they are being taught, but about specific kids' mathematical talents)
- this trend does not hold true for Hamilton's advanced scores in reading (10% vs 19% at Afya)

I think if you try to be fair you've got to say Afya is doing very well on MSA's. The only caveats I would add are:
- first year energy of a new charter school might be hard to maintain over the course of several years
- there is much more to a school than test scores. We haven't looked at parental involvement, teacher retention, school climate/safety etc. Those are the ones that come to mind to me.

Test results are getting compared here as if they are bouquets of flowers. If a school that was shut down for being persistently dangerous got test scores that you find weirdly high, your instinct makes sense but your conclusion--that school size was a factor--does not. The basis of your suspicion cancels the evidence, unless you wish to suggest that students do better under illegal duress than do students who work in comparably quiet and peaceful conditions. Somewhere there must be a very learned dissertation being written about violent disruption enhances one's ability to learn.

thats right

its amazing

I would just like to add that the idea of comparing schools is a little statistically weird to me for a couple of reasons. First, the majority of charter schools are selective about which students they accept and usually base enrollment on test scores and report card grades, unlike traditional middles like Northeast and Hamilton, who had to pretty much accept everyone who walked through the door, including those 2 and 3 years older than grade level, with arrest records, POs, etc. Second, if all of your students entered being at least Proficient, why are your results not higher? Even RP, whose scores are arguably among the highest in the city, is still able to remove those students who do not meet grade requirements and send them back to schools like Hamilton and Northeast who must take them if they live within their zones, bad grades or behavior or both. If you can select the students yo want to attend, why are your scores not higher? I guess to me the grades should be important but if you are turning around students who have to cross gang zones to get to the only schools that want them and those schools have found a way to even get those kids to have a renewed interest in schools, should the schools be penalized if the progress that they make is not hitting the arbitrary mark the state says it should make at the end of each year? I am not an idealist but a realist. If schools like the now defunct traditionals could find the magic ingredient to make school a priority for kids who come from extremely broken homes (and I am not dismissing the problems that students from charter schools have but in many of the cases-SOMEONE in the home or community is taking an interest in helping these kids continue to excel and making sure that they get to school daily. Unfortunately, you just don't get that same level of involvement where someone actually had to apply on the child's behalf instead of the child simply going whereever the letter told them to go in July. I wish I could take all of the kids who seem to have to fend for themselves and show theme some positive reinforcement so that they can realize that they are really great kids. I love public schools-as a parent, it is my job to be aware and I pride myself on having my kids see me at every meeting and speaking with teachers every week about their progress. I think that kids really do need a different environment before transitioning to high school and the scores of the middle levels in k-8s don't really look much different from the traditionals. It is the elementary scores that are high and carry many of them.

@Tracey -
I'd just like to address one of your statements - "the majority of charters are selective about which students they select..." This is not based on reality. 100% of charter schools are open to all students and if there are more applicants than slots they have a witnessed lottery to select students. If you don't believe me you can find this on the City Schools web page - "Charter schools are public schools of choice. They are publicly funded and open to all students with no admission testing or screening. Each school has a charter, or performance contract, detailing its program, goals, and methods of assessment. Charter schools operate with increased autonomy in exchange for accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the authorizer that grants the charter, the parents who choose to send their children, and the public that funds them. Charter Schools are also governed by Maryland Charter Law. This includes conducting a lottery for enrollment and maintaining a waiting list."

@ A Parent...
You are right, there is a lottery for Charter schools. However, if the students do not meet the criteria once they are admitted to the school (i.e behavior, grades, etc.) the Charter School can release them and then they go back to their neighborhood schools.

@lancer -
I'm pretty sure this exact same conversation has happened before, but what the heck...

You can check the charter contracts - there are no contractual requirements about grades or behaviors that have a "failure to abide by these rules will mean you will get kicked out of this school" clause. Even the city-wides that do have that rule in their handbooks, for good or for bad, are no longer able to remove kids for grades or behavior. Of course I'm excluding things like arson which will get you kicked out of neighborhood schools as well.

The only clause in some charter schools is a requirement for school support (you have to volunteer at the school for at least x hours in the course of a year). I have never heard of any charter school enforcing these rules and I do know of several examples of when parents have not met these obligations and nothing happens.

I feel like a broken record, but I hate to see un-truthful statements put up on this board without any challenge.

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